by Peter Ray Allison
Snarling howls reverberate through our small sanctuary from the horror that has gripped the city. A face is glimpsed sprinting past. I have no idea if it is a survivor, but we are too scared to offer help in case it is one of the infected. Suddenly, bloodshot eyes stare back at me, flesh hanging in tatters from a shredded face. This is how we spend our nights now.
This is 2.8 Hours Later; the critically-acclaimed live-action cross-city zombie chase, where players follow a series of grid points in a bid to find valuable resources whilst being chased by zombies.
Every five minutes players are sent out in groups of up to ten (it is not unusual to meet other groups during your run), just as evening is about to set in. The experience is most effective when it is fully dark, when you cannot see as far, and when zombies emerging out of the gloom are truly frightening.
Sections of the city are closed to the public, allowing zombies to chase the participants through the streets, in many cases howling for your blood. The route taken is up to the players, and innovative navigating can allow you to bypass some of the zombies, but that does lessen the experience. If you are caught, you quietly have your hand stamped with UV ink (to indicate you have been infected), before continuing the chase. 2.8 Hours Later is essentially a glorified version of tag, but the effect is much more.
Be warned, this is not a game for the faint of heart. Reports of people panicking, as well asb injuries sustained whilst fleeing zombies, are not unheard of.
At least 500 participants play 2.8 Hours Later each night and hundreds of thousands of people have played the game so far. The game concludes in a safe zone called Asylum, where the survivors and infected (after being suitably splattered with blood) harmoniously party together at the end of the world.
Despite the title being a pun on Danny Boyle’s classic zombie film, director James Wheale was inspired to create 2.8 Hours Later when the Tories announced widespread cuts in the arts: “we wanted to represent that in a way that had meaning but was still fun,” he says. “Because of the cuts, we wanted to do a game that reclaimed public space. A really important ethos within our company is that we are really interested in the idea of you taking back the privatisation of our space and what we enjoy, but also doing something within a genre that has social commentary.”
2.8 Hours Later has become so popular that players often come back for more, usually in groups with a particular theme. James Wheale continually evolves the game to accommodate new features as well as using fresh routes across the various cities to ensure the game never becomes stale. Fans have the chance to become zombies for the night (providing they pass Zombie School), chasing other players in the game.
You can experience the horror of 2.8 Hours Later at various cities across the UK when it recommences in March.